How to Teach a CrossFit Class

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Sep 23 2014


  1. CrossFit Level 2 Certificate Course Training Guide & Workbook
  2. Brian Wilson Training Articles


Our CrossFit (or WOD) classes have a consistent structure with one endstate in mind: improved fitness for the client.  This will result in improved retention for the gym and improved ability and job satisfaction for the coach.

Our coaches are expected to master the three aspect of a CrossFit class: Rapport, Command and Flow

Each our classes is broken down into three parts: Warmup, Strength/Skill Development, Conditioning.  The intent of our consistent structure is to allow coaches and athletes to train more and better within the hour long class.

Three Aspects: Rapport, Command and Flow.

These three aspects are both distinct and blend together.  Coaches will develop these three aspects by consistently coaching and receiving feedback from other coaches and athletes.

Rapport is “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.”  This is achieved by three things:

  1. Knowing and referring to your athletes by name.
  2. Talking to your athletes one-on-one.
  3. Teaching and talking to your clients individually.

Command is your ability to lead the class through your presence, mastery of the subject matter, and ability to deal with friction.  You should look and act professionally.  You should know how to effectively teach and correct movement.  You should be able to maintain your demeanor and creatively deal with foreseeable and unforeseeable issues that come up in class.

Flow refers to your ability to lead the class through an entire class while minimizing friction for you and the athletes.  This is done by adhering to and mastering our class structure, building rapport with clients, and ensuring you have a plan.  Like playing chess, you need to be thinking 3 or 4 moves ahead.  You need to clearly and briefly explain the tasks and intent of what you want the clients to do.  Few things are more detrimental to flow than a lack of energy in the class.

Class Structure.  

Our class structure allows for a maximum of training during our class.  Great baseball players don’t get good at baseball by listening to a coach talk for 30 minutes and playing for 30 minutes.  They get good by playing ball.

Our class structure allows experienced clients to predict what will happen next and make their necessary individual preparations.  It further allows you to focus on new athletes at the beginning of each part, and experienced athletes at the end.

Lastly it allows for the “Kindergarten effect.”  Rather than having to correct new athletes constantly, they can look around and imitate their peers.

One last note: Play music when you’re not talking. Loud music.  Don’t play music when you’re addressing the group as it undermines your command, encourages experienced athletes to ignore you, and causes new athletes confusion by not being able to hear you.

  1. Warmup.  First 20 minutes of class.  Our warmup is broken down into three parts:
    1. Dynamic Mobility/Monostructural Movement.  Coaches will use the first few minutes of class to either have athletes perform “Red Line”, Double Unders, or running.
    2. Next, a combination of movements performed “Every Minute on the Minute” (EMOTM), usually eight minutes long.  These consist of a barbell skill, a core movement and an alternating upper body push/upper body pull.  Athletes who have been training less than six months should use a PVC so that a) they can practice movements under minimal load, and b) you can identify new athletes.
    3. Last, coaches will lead athletes through mobility.  Utilize barbells, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, bands and/or bodyweight to mobilize the muscle groups being used during the rest of the WOD class.
    4. Coaches should have attendance completed by the end of mobility.
    5. Utilize mobility to make gym announcements from the blog, demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter, and build rapport.
  2. Strength/Skill Development.  Our strength/skill development consists of barbell strength on Mon/Wed/Thu and gymnastic EMOTMs on most Tue/Thu/Sundays. Group demonstration and explanation should be kept as brief as possible.  Do not use more than three cues per movement.  Talk to each athlete during this time and get as in depth as you need to to improve their movement in the time available.
  3. Conditioning.  These consist of traditional CrossFit metabolic conditioning workouts (METCONs).
    1. Ensure appropriate load, scaling and space for each athlete.
    2. No more than three cues per movement.
    3. Encourage people and be very vocal during the METCON.  Use people’s names.
    4. Ensure equipment is cleaned and put back at the end of the workout.
    5. Encourage people to write their scores on the whiteboard and comments section of the blog.


By consistently practicing and attempting to improve your abilities in terms of rapport, command and flow, you’ll produce a fitter client who will stick with you longer.  By using our class structure, you maximize your ability to develop these aspects and your clients’ fitness.

Paleo Challenge Liftoff!!!

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 11 2014


So the Paleo Challenge is in full swing. You can do the play at home version by following through our Paleo blog where we post helpful info or through our FAQ for basics on how to get started.

The biggest question you might have is “What’s in it for me?” My answer based on running hundreds of people through this diet is: everything. Want to get #sexyasfuck: do Paleo. Want to improve your performance in CrossFit: do Paleo. Want to improve every aspect of your health from auto-immune deficiency to staying more awake and alert after lunch: do Paleo.

There’s plenty of excuses that you can offer yourself for not doing Paleo or doing a watered down version. But compliance gets results. It might be hard at first, but you just have to have some skin in the game either through a Paleo Challenge or doing some 1:1 nutritional counseling. So help us help you, there’s bacon and being #sexyasfuck in it for you.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140911]


You Are All Unique and Beautiful Snowflakes

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 09 2014

We talked the other week about obsessing about single workouts, numbers or movements and how it can be detrimental to your long term fitness. This week I want to talk about how you can attack a weakness in a very simple and effective way: by adjusting your warmup.

Every day we do a warmup of barbell skill, core movement, upper body push and upper body pull. The goals of our warmup are:



  • Provide a moderate amount of intensity through a low volume of functional movements to prepare soft tissue, joints and CNS for high intensity/high volume functional movements.
  • Use moderate intensity functional movement as a screening for the rest of the WOD. If something hurts during the warmup, we try to fix it through mobility, sub movements in the WOD, or send you home because you’re too broken.
  • Practice functional movements as skill work.



With respect to the last piece, warmup as skill work, it’s very easy for us to adjust your daily warmup to try to improve certain movements. I often have new members just do overhead squats or front squats every day vice attempting a Hang Squat Snatch or Snatch Balance. I also have people work on their kipping Pullup or strict Pullup or toes-to-bar or pushups every day rather than whatever push or pull we have on the board.

This is really easy for a coach to diagnose and give you some advice, so just post to comments and we can help you with your goals.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140901]

Sport Specific Training: Ski Season

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Sep 08 2014

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We’re very happy to announce some free sport specific training classes for both our current members and prospective members starting September 20th at Potomac CrossFit(and October 11th at Patriot CrossFit and November 15th at Hudson Trail Outfitters). Our good friends at Hudson Trail Outfitters are sweetening this deal by giving away discounts to everyone that attends and raffling off a bunch of ski gear for the upcoming season.

What we’re going to try to cover in these classes is simple: how CrossFit can help your skiing. One of Coach Greg Glassman’s first world class athletes that he trained as a client was Eva Twarkoden, who won the bronze at the 1985 World Championships in the Giant Slalom. The Women’s US Ski Team trained with Coach Glassman briefly and while they saw terrific improvement in their skiing with the addition of CrossFit in general, they found that adding significant volume of pullups had the best correlation with improvement on the slopes.

So the dirty little secret of these workouts will that they will be sport specific, but only in that we’re going to find the common issues that we’ve seen with skiers and explain how they can be fixed with CrossFit. We’ll see common mobility problems, such as extremely poor hip mobility, lack of strength (believe it or not) in unilateral movements such as the Pistol and lunge, and awful explosive power (even though skiiers usually spend a lot of time doing plyometrics).

While each athletes is different, athletes in certain sports display similar issues. But through regular training in CrossFit and addressing individual deficiencies we can improve your fitness, improve your skiing, and make you more fun to be around (because you’re just going to talk about CrossFit all the time with your friends….).


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140828]

“Single White Female” CrossFit

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 28 2014


The things that I’ve seen lead to the most injuries are athletes fixating on one thing that they “should” be able to do, and not remembering that fitness is by definition your ability in “broad time and modal domains.” But athletes say “fuck that, I want to do 30 Muscle Ups for time” or “fuck that, I want a 400 pound squat” One workout or one movement doesn’t make you a better athlete, being passable at a lot of things does.

I’ve had two serious injuries in my CrossFit career and they stem from these two fixations. When I started CrossFit in 2006, I really wanted to be able to complete the “30 Muscle Ups for time” WOD that I’d seen on the main site. I geeked out on Muscle Ups a lot (here’s me doing some sirious video analysis in 2008 at the Pullup bars behind my job site). After attempting that workout in 2008, I’ve had sirious elbow issues ever since.

Last spring I was really frustrated at my squat numbers because I couldn’t get over 385, so I added volume by back squatting and front squatting every week without taking any back off weeks. The results of this has been over a year without normal heavy squats. I’ve worked up to being able to 3x5x245 Box Squats because my knees can’t handle normal weighted squats. I did thrusters for the second time in a year last Tuesday, but could only do 75 lbs because my knees couldn’t handle 95 lbs.

We want you to attack your weaknesses, but we don’t want you to be totally obsessed with them. Yes, you should come in on days that there are movements that you are weak at. But no, you shouldn’t be staying up at night thinking about how bad you want a 400 lbs squat. You need to listen to your body and not be crazy.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140814]

Paleo is Hard!!!

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 27 2014


“But Paleo sounds so hard!!!” We hear that a lot when we start talking to athletes about the Paleo Diet. Really, it’s about as easy as it can possibly get, but we have to help you understand and equip you to make the right decisions.

Since we’re going into the weekend, lets talk about compliance, eating out and drinking alcohol:

Compliance = Results There’s no getting around this. If you sleep at least eight hours a night, reduce non-hormetic stressors, eat strict Paleo and don’t drink alcohol, and train 5-6 times per week you’ll get amazing results. Wherever you compromise on those points, you’ll compromise on those results.

Brian, can you just call in my order for me? I’m busy not complying with the above guidelines on the weekend, so no. But all you have to do is the following when you sit down at a restaurant: “Hi Waitron, I’m deathly allergic to gluten, dairy and legumes. If you put that into my food I will projectile vomit all over this place.” That will motivate them to help you a great deal.

How do I replicate my amazing Clarendon Ballroom dance moves without booze?!?!?!!?!? My guidance is ripped off from Robb Wolf and is simple yet challenging: drink as little as possible to improve your fitness and as much necessary to improve your sex life.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140715]

Starchy Carbs and Paleo/CrossFit

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 26 2014


Something that I think is an issue for a lot of athletes is carb intake. I’ve talked to a lot of clients about this, wrote about it, and talked about it during the Paleo Challenge, but dialing in the right amount of carbs still seems to be an issue for folks. I’ll give you some good rules of thumb:

1) If you are training 2x/week and have significant amounts of body fat to loose, you just want to eat starchy carbs in your post workout meals. So if you work out in the morning, eat at least a fist sized portion of starchy carbs in your post-WOD meal.

2) If you have some body fat to lose, up your starch intake to at least 2x/day with meals.

3) If you are training 4-5 days a week, and have some body fat to loose, you need to eat at least 2-3 fist sized portions of starch on your training days.

You can find info on what we consider starchy carbs here in our Paleo FAQ section.

Now if you want more clarity, we’re here to help! You can just post to comments anytime, you can post to our Facebook page (on the wall or just in the daily WOD post)or you can sign up for nutritional counseling with one of our coaches. Maria does these all the time and is a great resource. When I’m sober, I’m ok at this too.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140616]

Shaping a Box Culture

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 25 2014


As a coach and owner of a large box with 24 coaches and hundreds of athletes I feel like I need to shape the culture of our gym by doing as little as possible to shape the culture of our gym. I know that sounds ridiculous.

I tell my coaches often that I don’t want PCF to be “The Brian Wilson Show”. This is based on the presumption that I don’t know everything that makes a successful box and I don’t know what is going to make everyone happy. What I strive for is an organic or evolutionary process that naturally encourage and discourages certain types of behavior. Greg Glassman made the statement once, which resonates with me: “If you make me do something, even if I’m already doing it, I’ll stop doing it. Even if I thought it was a good idea and it was something that I wanted to do. I’m not going to be told what to do.”

I’ve talked about this before in terms of why some people train with us. While I do “tell you what to do” in a specific training sense during WODs, I don’t tell you exactly how to do everything because I want to a) let organic processes based on individuals decisions select best practices, and b) want folks that fit into our prevailing culture that’s based on a dynamic and responsive system and community of athletes.

Our culture will shift, change, and morph based on what folks want to do more than by what I tell people to do. The only really hard and fast rule I have is that nobody will affect the culture, policies or practices at the expense of another athlete or athletes. If folks want to do something, whether that’s a larger project like Throwdowns, Competition Teams, Happy Hours, or a seemingly smaller thing like cheering on athletes at the end of workouts, taking shirts off during WODs or asking for more Ke$sha, I’m going to try it or not do anything to stop it based on the simple proposition that anybody can do whatever feels right to them so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. If it’s something that catches on, great! That’ll be another facet of our culture. If it doesn’t that means that most athletes don’t share your love of cheering, shirtless WODs or amazing DJing.

This puts a tremendous responsibility on athletes especially, because I’m not going to see everything that has a positive or negative effect on your satisfaction with PCF. It puts the onus on you to both take part in practices that you see as beneficial and try to stop practices that don’t. So if you like what somebody is doing (whether that’s me, a coach or an athlete) pat them/us on the ass and say “good game”. And if you don’t, do something about it.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140603]


Nature Doesn’t Know The Difference

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 22 2014


“Strive to blur distinctions between “cardio” and strength training. Nature has no regard for this distinction.” -Greg Glassman, What is Fitness?

Our workouts blend what you would consider traditional strength training and traditional conditioning. Each of our workouts will challenge you in whatever you are lacking. For instance, in the workout today, if you are not proficient at the chest to bar Pullup or the Pistol, you will be challenged in simply completing the movements as prescribed. If you are proficient, you will be challenged in by the conditioning required to complete the workout.

Many folks come out of workouts thinking they have shortchanged themselves in one of these types of athletic development. This isn’t the case, rather you are working on your weakness. If you come out of a workout like today and say “Man, that my lats and quads are fried, I could barely do all those reps! Buut I’m not really out of breath!” then you probably needed todays workout to develop your strength and skill at these movements. If you came out of it laying on the floor in a pool of sweat making indistinct grunts you are probably proficient at these movements and got some practice at the movements and improved your conditioning.

Nature doesn’t know the difference between strength and conditioning, and a big part of our program is based on the fact that those that specialize in one or do so at the expense of the other. But the person that has both the strength and conditioning is capable of doing both or either well.


[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140602]

Hydration and Electrolyte Balance

Uncategorized | Posted by Kayla Castro
Aug 21 2014


Much is made in most health and fitness about proper hydration. I think that much of this is bubkis. However, getting the proper amount of what is commonly known as “electrolytes” is absolutely critical to your overall health and your CrossFit performance especially.

For most folks, simply eating Paleo and getting a good variety of foods will do the trick. I’m also a fan of adding iodized salt in the mix. For folks that are doing a good amount of hard training, some simple supplements might be necessary based on your individual biological requirements. For years, I’ve recommended Endurolyte tablets. As it’s getting hotter outside, these make more and more sense and folks report good results. There are some other more pricey options out there, but they depend on how much your working out, how much you naturally sweat, and whether or not you really want to take the time to mess around with them.

Have any of you tried Endurolytes or other supps?

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 140527]